ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

Being a Puppy Parent

Raising a little puppy correctly is not difficult but does require some attention and dedication. Even some of the very best books on dog care and training (i.e., How To Raise A Puppy You Can Live With, by Clarise Rutherford and David H. Neil, MRCVS, from Colorado State University) still contain a few of the old myths about dominance. Please don't worry about it, but try to get away from those myths.

I say "myths" because dominance is discussed as if people and dogs are natural enemies. Quite the opposite is true; mankind has enjoyed dogs as domestic partners for many thousands of years. We're hardly enemies, so let's not start thinking like that.

Instead, think of yourself as the Puppy Parent, if that will help you consider how to bring up your new "child" . I mean puppy parent in the sense of the person who provides physical care, security, attention to the dog's medical needs, diet, exercise, play, and instruction. Of course, human parents prepare their children to become totally independent so that they will leave the house one day and start their own lives, and that's the main difference. We try to raise our dogs so that we will have a compatible life together.

We have been told that when you get a new pup the owners should establish themselves as the pup's alpha dog.

You provide the shelter, food, water, toys treats, comfort and companionship. These are all good things for dogs. You are the dog's natural leader, no doubt about it. You don't need to become a dog, alpha or otherwise .

This person had stated that playing tug-o-war is not a good game to play because most often the person tires out before the dog does...

No problem.

...and therefore the dog wins the game.

So what? The little Yorkie puppy is not your enemy. This is not war! You're starting to build a new puppy-to-human relationship. The best way is to do so positively so that your puppy will learn to trust you, not fear you.

The idea is that this will develop dominant behavior and dominant positioning sense for the pup in the pack (your family).

I know some dear little Yorkies. Some are a bit playfully demanding (they are terriers, after all), but they're certainly not dominant over their owners!!!

Now whether you choose to play tug o' war games or not is a personal decision. I don't do so with any dogs because I see no need for it. Even if I wanted to play tug games, I wouldn't do so with a little tiny puppy that hasn't even got its permanent teeth!

Another difference between raising children and raising dogs is that dogs do not speak "human," so we have to learn how better to understand canine language. The main point I hope to get across in this post is to enjoy your young puppy Spike, teach it positively by rewarding every good behavior, prevent unwanted behaviors. Do not punish, because there is no reason to punish. You see, occasionally puppies and dogs do things we do not like, but they do NOT do those things to be defiant to the owners or to be naughty. And that's why I suggest very strongly: do not punish. One of the easiest means to raise a puppy positively is to arrange life to prevent problems and manage things safely. Learn how to puppy proof the dog's environment so that little Spike will not get into accidents or chew things that you do not want it to chew.

A book I'd like to recommend is Puppy Primer, by Brenda K. Skidmore and Dr. Patricia McConnell. You may be familiar with Dr. McConnell because of her daily TV program "PetLine" on Animal Planet. She is a well-respected certified animal behaviorist. A video you may enjoy is "Sirius Puppy Training" by Dr. Ian Dunbar. They're both available through You may request a catalog to browse at your leisure.

Stick with us here on Clicker Solutions. You'll enjoy learning more about dog behavior and training. Let's call it teaching!

Barbara D. Brill
President, Collie Humane Care, Inc.
P. O. Box 234
Dundee, NY 14837-0234
pet owner, collie rescuer & trainer (retired breeder/exhibitor)
copyright 1999 Barbara D. Brill


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